Tony Stark's 'Secret Origin' rewrites 'Iron Man's' history
(CBR) [SPOILER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR "IRON MAN" #17, ON SALE NOW.]
Marvel Comics' Iron Man (AKA Tony Stark) is literally a self-made man. He designed the battle armor that endows him with his fantastic abilities and many of the other high tech devices his companies have sold over the years. The fact that his actions and choices shaped him into the hero he's become is very important to him, but in "The Secret Origin of Tony Stark," the recent mega-arc celebrating "Iron Man's" 50th anniversary, those notions were challenged by a devious robotic life form known as 451 who claimed that Tony's genius intellect and penchant for inventions were a product of a genetic manipulation that he had done on Tony while he still in his mother's womb.
In "Iron Man" #17, writer Kieron Gillen and artist Carlo Pagulayan brought "The Secret Origin of Tony Stark" to a close with an issue that shined light on the validity of 451's allegations and led to Tony discovering a well hidden family secret. CBR News spoke with Gillen about these revelations, the process of crafting "The Secret Origin of Tony Stark," and what the revelations of the mega-arc mean for the series moving forward.
CBR News: Kieron, "The Secret Origin of Tony Stark" has arguably made the largest impact on a Marvel character you've written, and if I understand correctly the entire story arose because you were forced to make other plans -- first with Tony going into space and then celebrating the 50th anniversary of Iron Man. Is that correct?
Kieron Gillen: Pretty much, yeah. I had an original plan, which was completely different. None of it was written and it certainly wasn't plotted properly. I was still doing all the research.
So yes, this story was counter punching, so to speak. That's kind of the nature of Marvel. You're working inside a larger company and you want to be receptive when ideas come up that make you say, "Oh that's an interesting way to go." So I had one direction for the book, which just didn't really fit with where the character was going in the universe. Then I found something else. It was one of those moments where I said, "That's a big idea. I can totally do that." There are significant gains for the character. It's useful, and it takes Tony on a good, long journey. It also takes my run in an interesting direction. The whole run from at least issue #6, and there was even some foreshadowing before that, has led to this point. Now we'll follow the repercussions of this onwards.
We now know that Tony has a brother and that brother has spent his entire life living in an iron lung. He didn't get to do any of the things that Tony had the privilege to do. Plus Tony has also really begun to question the nature of who he is. He's been dealing with this big existential idea for these last few issues. Now he's got something that's much more down to Earth, but no less a threat to the nature of how he considers himself. Both of those things lead into where we'll go next. It's nice being able to say, "This is what my run is about."
Let's talk a little more about Tony's brother, Arno, who was genetically manipulated by 451. Readers and Tony met for Arno the first time in "Iron Man" #17. I understand you had the idea for this character early on when you were first developing "The Secret Origin of Tony Stark." Is that correct?
I wrote a letter in the back of issue #17 where I talked about how I developed the story line. It was basically a response to being asked to do a 50th anniversary story. It was a moment of anger really. [Laughs]
My original idea for the story about Tony being genetically manipulated was an interesting science fiction tale, but it fundamentally undermined Iron Man as a character. So I couldn't really do that and make it stick. I thought though, "If we make it so Tony was adopted it leaves some room in the story and it gives Tony a brother he's never known about." That's interesting. It gives us another member of the supporting cast and there's lots of stories there.
Some readers will just see Tony's brother as this new character. Of course, people who know more about the history of the Marvel Universe know that there was an Arno Stark who was the Iron Man of 2020 in another reality. If I remember correctly that Arno was Tony's cousin. Now I imagine people with that longer knowledge of continuity have got a bad feeling about this Arno [Laughs]. He's clearly different in some ways though.
It gave us an interesting way to play with some of the established history of the Marvel Universe. Plus we're getting close to 2020. So I thought if we were going to introduce an Arno Stark into the main Marvel Universe this would be a good time to do it. So I did. [Laughs]
Tony embodies many of the stereotypes associated with only children, and as far as he knew he was one. What does it mean for him to suddenly discover he has a brother?
There's all sorts of nature and nurture stuff going on with Tony and the big irony is that he pretty much did everything that 451 wanted him to do anyway. He really is a self made man, but the influence of his parents led to Tony Stark becoming the man he is. So on some level family is really important to him.
When Tony went into space he felt like an under achiever. That's the curse of anyone who is genuinely brilliant or even moderately. You're always left thinking you could have done more. I'm not Tony, so I'm not a genius and I'm far from smart really [Laughs], but people ask me questions like, "How do you do so many books a month?" while in my head I feel like I'm lazy. I think I could have done more. I feel like I waste too much time doing things like clicking away on the internet, and Tony is so beyond a person like me that he'd feel it even more acutely. When you're so brilliant, why haven't you done more?
Now he compares himself to Arno. He has a brother who could even be smarter than he is and that brother has not been able to do anything. That puts a focus on Tony's achievements and makes him think, "I've had everything and he hasn't. Maybe I should have done more." It's a really basic visual thing that Arno has spent his life in an iron lung and Tony has spent his adult life in an Iron Man. So on top of being adopted, having a brother makes Tony ask questions about himself. Plus his parents died when he was young so he hasn't really had family in his life. Now he has that again.
Arno's perspective is of course interesting as well. Now that his personal demon, 451, is dead he can go live a life. What does that mean though? Is Arno bitter about what happened to him? What has it been like for him to sit there knowing everything he knows and watch Tony do what he does? So for me there's lots of juice in that relationship.
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